Do Heating Cables Really Prevent Ice Dams?

Once again, winter is upon us and we are faced with another season of snow build-up and potential ice-dams. Hopefully you’ve performed fall maintenance and your roof is up to the task of protecting your home, however, unless you have functional ridge vents and soffit vents to prevent the snow from melting and trickling down to freeze on cold spots, you may need a quick fix like heating cables to prevent these dams from forming. If you don’t have ventilation or heating cables, you may experience a leak and significant damage to your roof that will not become apparent until the spring. If serious ice dams form on your home, it would be prudent to contact roofers you can trust to remedy the situation, otherwise you could be looking at a significant problem down the line.

Ice dams form like this: once a thick slab of snow is covering your roof, some of it may melt from the warmth of the house. The liquid from the melted snow trickles down, but it doesn’t flow right off the roof, instead it will typically refreeze when it hits a cold spot; most likely the metal gutter. This dam can create a significant block of frozen matter – an elemental force to be reckoned with.

Most people think that having snow on their roof is bad, and would want it to melt off and drain away, but actually the whole process is counter-intuitive. You want cold air to circulate and make sure that the snow on your roof is evenly distributed. Unless there is an incredible amount of snow on your roof, the snow itself will not cause any problems. It’s only once the snow melts and becomes unevenly dispersed – freezing in blocks as it rolls off your house – that you’re in trouble.

If you happen to have a flat roof, ice dams can still form, since your roof has a subtle slant designed to drain off rain water. We can fix your flat roof issues if an excessive amount of ice is collecting, either by removing the ice, or by installing heating cables or increasing ventilation.

If you go the route of heating cables, you need to be extremely meticulous when installing them. Remember: heat causes ice dams in the first place, so if you are using heat to solve the problem you need to guide the melting water over the drip edge of the roof, rather than allowing it to get trapped at the gutter. Some roofers even advise against using heating cables, since there is such a high chance that they will backfire and make the problem worse.

Hiring one of our experts to install the heating cables may be your best bet, if you pay attention and take our advice, then next time around you might be able to install them yourself. We take care of your roof problems so you don’t have to, but we’re also happy to share our methods so that you can be more involved with the maintenance of your own roof. Furthermore, if it gets to a point where dams have built up and heating cables won’t do you any good, we have ways of manually removing the ice so that your roof won’t suffer further damage.